Genoa, Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli

The UNESCO Site “Genoa, Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli”, occupying various sections of Genoa’s historical city centre, is one of the largest in Europe and the first European example of an urban development project parcelled out by a public authority within a unitary framework and associated to a particular system of public lodgings in private residences. The Site includes a network of Renaissance and Baroque palazzi along the so-called Strade Nuove, or “new streets”, which connect the medieval streets to the south with the contemporary traffic structures to the north.

Dating back to the late 16th and the early 17th Century, the Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli are an innovative form of urban planning associated to a particular system of ‘public lodgings’ in private residences, based on the laws of the period. The Palazzi dei Rolli were built as residences for the richest and most powerful aristocratic families of the Republic of Genoa, then at the height of its financial and maritime power (ICOMOS Evaluation no. 1211, 2006, page 106) As decreed by the Senate in 1576, they were classified based on the value of the land and on the quality of the building, and then inscribed in lists or registers, known as Rolli, for the official lodging of distinguished guests.

The buildings were split into three categories, or bussoli, according to their level of architectural worth and luxury, which each category corresponding to a different rank of guests - ambassadors, dignitaries, sovereign princes, popes and emperors. The palazzi, generally three or four storeys high, feature spectacular staircases, courtyards and loggias that overlook gardens, built on different levels in a relatively confined space. The buildings offer an extraordinary variety of solutions and attain universal value in adapting to the particular characteristics of the location and to the requirements of a specific social and economic organisation.

The Site “Genoa, Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli” was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006. There are 42 Palazzi dei Rolli in all, with most of these noble residences being concentrated in Via Garibaldi, Via Balbi, Via Lomellini and Salita Santa Caterina. The original structure of many of the buildings has been preserved almost intact, and some of the Palazzi, as the seat of public institutions and museums, can be visited. These include the buildings of the system of the Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi - Palazzo Spinola di Pellecceria, seat of the National Gallery of Palazzo Spinola, and Palazzo Reale.